A.J. Allmendinger will strap back into a stock car this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
The California native tested an IndyCar for Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway last week, and may be up for at least a part-time run this season for the IZOD IndyCar Series powerhouse. But on Sunday, he’ll be driving the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet in the Subway Fresh Fit 500k at PIR.
It’s the first of four NASCAR Sprint Cup events that Allmendinger will compete in for Phoenix Racing. He’ll also run at Bristol Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) next month, as well as at Martinsville Speedway in April.
“This will be good,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “It’s been a few months since I’ve been in a stock car. I haven’t been in one of the Gen 6 cars yet, so I think it will take a little time to get acclimated to it. Phoenix International Raceway is a great place for me to get back behind the wheel. I’ve always enjoyed the race track. It will definitely feel different, but I’ll be ready to go.”
After Allmendinger was suspended and subsequently released from his drive at Penske Racing last summer due to failing a drug test, he joined up with Phoenix Racing following his completion of NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program (he was reinstated by NASCAR in mid-September). The former Champ Car standout drove in four of the final six Sprint Cup events of 2012 for the James Finch-led operation.
He has made eight Sprint Cup starts at PIR, with one pole and two top-10 finishes to his credit.
As for Allmendinger’s potential open-wheel duties, he may return for next month’s IndyCar “Spring Training” test sessions at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.
“That’s our goal,” Penske Racing president Tim Cindric said last week to SPEEDTV.com’s Marshall Pruett. “Our goal is to try and put that together. We’re probably a week or two away from knowing whether that’s reality or not. That’s where we’d like to see him next.”